3rd Annual Pilgrimage, Prayer Service and Wypominki – October 30, 2010

Laurie A. Gomulka


On a day that seemed blessed by the angels-a perfect Indian summer afternoon-the Society ventured out on its Third Annual Pilgrimage, Prayer Service, and Wypominki (naming, or remembering), this year to Detroit's Woodmere Cemetery in Southwest Detroit. The weather could not have been more perfect as the pilgrims boarded a comfortable coach, courtesy of Trinity Transportation in Wyandotte, beginning at 1:00 p.m. at one of two locations: St. Colette Catholic Church in Livonia, and Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Detroit. Society member Francisco Solano arranged for extra Detroit Police surveillance of the OLQA parking lot during the day, for which we thank him. Our bus driver, “Slim,” was enthusiastic, professional and friendly, and everyone was in great spirits as we listened to the music of Polish classical composer Henryk Górecki over the loud speaker system to set the pace for this religious and cultural tradition. WSDPAHS Executive Director/Secretary Laurie A. Gomulka handed each pilgrim who boarded a program for the day and explained to the pilgrims the significance of All Saints' Day (Wszystkich Şwiętych) and All Souls' Day (Dzien Zaduski or Zaduszny), the days that are third only in celebration and in religious and cultural significance to Christmas and Easter in Poland. She explained the tradition of Wypominki, or remembering our dearly departed, and explained that each pilgrim would have an opportunity during the prayer service to read aloud the names of their loved ones for whom they would like to pray. The program included a bio of Pvt. Eddie D. Slovik, who is buried at Woodmere Cemetery, and a bio of WSDPAHS Honorary Member, Asst. Sterling Hts. Fire Chief Bernard Calka, who died on October 10, 2010, and who was responsible for having the remains of Pvt. Slovik brought from the cemetery in France, where he was buried alongside soldiers who had been convicted of rape and murder, so that he could be laid to rest in his home town of Detroit. Pvt. Slovik was the only soldier in World War II who was executed for the crime of desertion since the Civil War, although approximately 29,000 other soldiers in World War II had been convicted and sentenced to execution for desertion. Some believe his past criminal record played a part in the decision to have him executed. His wife, Antoinette (Wisniewski) Slovik, did not hear about his execution for several years afterwards.

WSDPAHS Director Rev. Gary Michalik presided over the prayer service. He greeted the pilgrims with a warm welcome and gave an introduction. Keyboards and vocals were provided by WSDPAHS member Mr. Steve Frayer, who led us in the opening hymn, “Be Not Afraid.” Laurie Gomulka then read the scripture reading (Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9). Steve Frayer led the responsorial psalm, which was followed by the intercessions. Then the pilgrims joined in the Wypominki. Laurie Gomulka began by reading the names of all the deceased Society members, beginning with deceased Board members, and the rest of the pilgrims added their Wypominki. Fr. Gary then led everyone in the Lord's Prayer, which was followed by the blessing. Steve Frayer led all in a gorgeous rendition of the closing hymn, Witaj Królowo nieba (Hail, Holy Queen of Heaven). Laurie Gomulka introduced Ms. Gail Hershenzon, cemetery historian, who gave an overview of the history of the cemetery and then led the group on a very interesting tour of the chapel before proceeding outside to board the bus for a guided bus tour of the cemetery.

During the bus tour, Laurie Gomulka described what a typical person might experience in Poland on All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, as described two years ago at the Society's event by Dr. Radziłowski, who said that the sight was enough to bring him to his knees and to tears. She explained the tradition of grave cleaning in Poland and the soul cake tradition. Everyone was given a sample of these delicious, spicy treats, baked by WSDPAHS member Larry Choraszewski and WSDPAHS Executive Director Laurie Gomulka.

After the cemetery tour, the pilgrims were given an offer to purchase Gail Hershenzon's book, Detroit's Woodmere Cemetery, at a discount. Everyone thanked her for a wonderful tour, and then headed to Vince's Italian Restaurant on Springwells, to the polka tunes of Bob Zielinski's Orchestra on CD, performing A Tribute to Ray Budzilik.

At Vince's the group was greeted by friendly faces and urns of steaming hot coffee. What a welcome sight! A special treat was a musical performance on the accordion of traditional Polish folk tunes by WSDPAHS member Larry Choraszewski while the group waited for their food to be served, with vocals added by WSDPAHS member Larry Merchel. The hungry pilgrims enjoyed a full course meal and socializing with one another. As usually happens at the Society's events, some members learned that they grew up together or that they were distantly related!

Everyone looks forward to next year's pilgrimage!